Have you been to or planning a tour in Asia? An Asian tour is not complete if you fail to visit hawker centers.

In its simplest sense, a hawker center is the term given to complexes selling numerous inexpensive food. Hawkers or cooked food centers are commonly found in transport hubs, train and bus stations, and public housing. They are extremely popular in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Riau Islands.

Singapore cuisine is diverse just like its culture. It is influenced by Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian cuisine. Because it is where you get to see variety of the food, hawker centers are considered to be the hub where in you will taste the country’s culinary culture.

But before you feast yourselves with the bounty offered by hawker centers in Singapore, here are some of the things you need to know about them.

The development of the first hawker centers coincide with the urbanization efforts in Singapore during the 1950s and the 1960s. They were put in place to regulate the food sellers. Before, unhygienic food preparation practices by unlicensed hawkers are a common problem in the city-state. To solve this, they put up hawker centers.

Hawker centers in Singapore are owned and regulated by three government agencies – the National Environment Agency or NEA, the Housing and Development Board or HDB, and the JTC Corporation.

Hawker centers are generally open-air. This may be a little inconvenient for some people, given the hot temperature, but this architecture and ambient, also makes you feel the authentic food experience in Singapore.

You can also find a variety of local delicacies and western food in hawker centers. Nowadays, hawker centers offer a lot of food choices fit for numerous palette needs of customers. Apart from local food choices such as Laksa, the Haianese rice which is considered to be the ‘national food of Singapore’, or the Boneless Braised Duck, hawker centers are now offering western food choices such as burgers and pasta.

If you have not yet been to a hawker center in Singapore, try visiting the Maxwell Road hawker center located near the Singapore China Town. Here you will find over a hundred food stalls offering various cuisines. You should definitely try the chicken rice and traditional congee in this hawker center.

You can also visit the Newton Food Center. Commonly referred to as Newton Circus, the Newton Food Center was established in 1971 making it one of the oldest food hubs in Singapore. Over the years, it has improved on its standards and food choices. To cater to even larger number of customers, most stalls are now offering delicacies without food or lard to accommodate people with dietary considerations.

Another popular food hub is the Old Airport Road hawker center. The food dishes offered here is cheaper than most hawkers in Singapore.

If you are planning a visit in Singapore or other neighboring countries, it will be truly incomplete to miss out on the hawker food experience.